Roadhouse album review: Altered Five Blues Band puts grit and soul into tough “Holler If You Hear Me”

Altered Five Blues Band – “Holler If You Hear Me” (Blind Pig Records, Sept. 3)

“Holler If You Hear Me” is the sixth and latest album from this gritty Milwaukee band, whose bluesy, soulful sound is wrapped around the big, rich pipes of its vocalist, Jeff Taylor.

Then there’s the band itself, with a driving, old-school feel. Then there’s the songwriting — 13 finely crafted odes to life and love, each one with guitarist Jeff Schroedl’s name on it as writer or co-writer. Finally, there’s the classy, classic Tom Hambridge blues production.

It all kicks off with the title song, a romping invitation to the blues party that follows — “come join the party, let’s ramble and roll….” Jason Ricci adds wicked harp here and on four other cuts.

Next, Taylor switches gears into the slow-burning, churning funk of “Guilty of a Good Time,” with a lyric that hits me where I live — “”hand-rolled cigars, rhythm and blues….” It’s the first of a glorious handful of torchy blues that show the power of Taylor’s voice, driven by Schroedl’s fierce guitar and the tightness of the band: bassist Mark Solveson, drummer Alan Arber, and Raymond Tevich on keyboards.

“If You Go Away (She Might Come Back)” is another good-rockin’ blues, again with Ricci weaving in and out (and probably jumping up and down — yes, I’ve seen him!).

My flat-out favorite cut is the passionate “Holding On With One Hand,” with Schroedl’s stinging guitar intro and solo, plus Ricci’s harp, making this an achingly strong showpiece for Taylor. “Leave Before I Let You Down” is another piece of soulful magic, deftly lyrical and powerfully sung. “All Suit, No Soul” is a funky little putdown whose title says it all. Another favorite is the chunky “Clear Conscience, Bad Memory,” about how easy it is to slip through those bad memories.

Ricci returns to help kick in the closer, “Big Shout Out,” a rousing tribute to those who “built the blues.”

There’s lots more great stuff here. These guys know how to write, play and sing. They do it with great enthusiasm and tremendous talent. It’s hard to overstate the strength that a tough vocalist like Jeff Taylor brings to the blues — and when you add the rest of this excellent band, the result is … well, it’s what you’ll hear when you give this a listen.

Here’s a video of the scorching “Guilty of a Good Time’:

Track list

1. Holler If You Hear Me (3:33)
2. Guilty of a Good Time (3:26)
3. If You Go Away (She Might Come Back) (3:32)
4. Holding on with One Hand (3:56)
5. Full Moon, Half Crazy (3:22)
6. Where’s My Money? (3:14)
7. All Suit, No Soul (2:57)
8. I Got All I Need (5:38)
9. Clear Conscience, Bad Memory (5:29)
10. In the Name of No Good (3:30)
11. Leave Before I Let You Down (4:21)
12. Fifteen Minutes of Blame (4:09)
13. Big Shout Out (3:12)

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